What an extraordinary Father’s Day weekend it was at our 2016 DBCC P127 Camp Out. With about 54 treasured church parents and kids, we hit the woods at Dairy Springs Campground in northern Arizona. It was a time of recharging and connecting with God and His people. It was refocusing in intentional and thoughtful ways with family and friends. For me it was a good recalibration of my attitude. Being in the woods is something you need to love (or learn to love), and I truly do. You have to love it. You have to enjoy the challenges it brings – being out of your element and exposed to The Elements. You have to enjoy the absence of things you take for granted – like comfy furniture, and bathrooms or kitchens accommodated with hot and cold running water, clean towels and clean surfaces that don’t require a double take while your mind says, “did something just move right there?” (this is a strangely enjoyable challenge to the true outdoor person). And you have to confidently welcome the invasive reality of things that being outdoors brings you face to face with – like everywhere dirt, large swings between being hot and cold, untimely wind, and yes bugs – bugs that fly, crawl, bite, swarm and generally just annoy you right in front of your eye ball, in your ear or in your food. I can tell my attitude was well adjusted. This morning, in the comfort of my own kitchen (unashamed and getting ready to cook breakfast in my underwear – sorry TMI), as a single fly buzzed my nose, I said to myself, “eh – there’s only one”.
Aside from these kinds of challenges, mealtimes in the woods kind of marinate you in the experience. With a hint of tiredness, the outdoors brings you to a mental vantage point of being more thankful. From there you will see mealtimes are transformed. They go from rushed and unshared, to “ahhh, I want some more” (more food and more time with friends). Having someone help you cook is more appreciated. What’s for dinner is the shared thought of all. What’s next in the busyness of your schedule isn’t dulling your brain or your taste buds. Conversations build in to knowing others and being known by others. And the taste! Food that is cooked outdoors; seasoned with the mountain air, a little campfire smoke and an extra measure of thankfulness and appreciation – that food just tastes better and having more of the food and the people is hard to resist. We often hear people say and ask, “this food is awesome. What did you put in this?”. The answer isn’t in any spice or ingredient in the recipe. The answer is found in really enjoying a meal in the amazing setting of God’s creation with the right mix of intention and the love of community (and bacon never hurts).
Doing things in the outdoors, like exploring, building a fort, fishing, hiking, critter watching (and chasing), are things I have really enjoyed many times over. I can’t say I will ever loose the desire to do. But watching others do it brings a richer sense of joy for me. Seeing kids amped up with excitement and pride while they create a monumental structure out of forest ruble is an awesome thing to watch. Feeling like giants they tip over dead trees, hall great timbers and relocate what they think are boulders. The activity sparks the glimmer of Creator in their eye. It is magnificent. And seeing grown men join their kids in the endeavors brings back that same feeling and creates a whole new level to “being with” your kids.
Fishing is much the same with the same precious cast and crew (haha). The purity of trust and hope can be seen in the eyes of a child who looks to their father with the excitement of the unknown – I’m really going to catch one, right daddy? Their little eyes are filled with anticipation despite never having caught a fish or a crawdad on their own. “Let me. I want to do it” is only cut short by their impatience. This is where the loving patience of a parent draws out their special time together just long enough. And then, by Divine intervention, it happens. A tap-tap on the line or a sinking bobber, and boom, FISH ON! It is at this moment that two of my favorite sounds in the entire world are made. The voices of both parent and child pierce the air in harmony and perfect tempo – “I GOT ONE, I GOT OOOONE” and “ YOU GOT ONE? YOU DO! YOU DO! REAL IT IN! REAL IT IN!… And then the chorus of the crowd follows with claps and cheers. The moment is rich, precious and now a permanent memory. It’s funny too, that the victory is follow by a new intensity and resolve of the other parents and kids trying to catch something. Without instruction they put a new worm on the hook and cast their line obviously close to the newly proven honey hole.
I love the relational life lessons that outdoor activities create – shared confidence; sticking to something when your partner wears out; collective patience; mutual disappointment and reward; sharing the hard work load for a quicker and greater result; reaping and sowing in relationship; joint stewardship; combined creativity; pooled resourcefulness and so much more. Being outdoors requires a definite level of resourcefulness and brings with it a fixed level of vulnerability. When you are “out of your element” and “exposed” the desire to learn is fueled by necessity. Self-serving attitudes like “I don’t want to” or fearful attitudes like “I can’t” are quickly replaced by a need for help and a shared inter-dependence. “I have to” turns into “we need to”. “I can’t” turns into “we can”. And as this inter-dependency bears fruit. “We better” moves to “we are” to “WE DID IT!”. Mutual efforts, trust and resolve bring a greater shared strength. When there is one weaker than another, the weaker is made stronger through the stronger one and the stronger one is made even stronger still by investing his strength for the benefit of another being made strong.
When sharing your strength is motivated by love it goes deep and it becomes an enduring love that makes relationship and those in it durable. Our Father’s Day devotional focused on this kind of love. Wen we are born we do not know love, but we are intensely loved. We are comforted and satisfied in this love through the affection, provision and protection of those who have been entrusted to love us. As this love is felt and learned, we ourselves learn to be loved and give love. And so, we must first be loved, before we can give love. What an incredible truth God gives us in this – 1John 4:19 We love, because He first loved us. Our love comes after God’s love. That’s the way God loves us and the way we ought to love our children. It is not contingent upon how well we behave, how many things we do for or give to the giver of our love. Romans 8:35 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”. This verse asks us the question we often ask ourselves. Because we often feel that we must earn God’s love, we miss that this is a rhetorical question and get the answer wrong. Verse 37 answers the question correctly for us. It says, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” It is telling us God loves us through His strength, His goodness, His kindness and by His choice. But, it is not only showing us that there is nothing more powerful than God’s love for us, it is showing us that, although God knows every dark and sinful nook and cranny of our heart, soul and mind (nakedness), He loves us just the same.
We all had the amazing privilege to see and hear the reality of this deep, durable, unconditional love in real relationships between father and child. We saw it and heard it though the testimony of their kids. For me this is the high point of our P127 Camp Outs. Because it was Father’s Day, our devotional ended with children (and wives) talking about the things they loved about their fathers (or husbands). There were many rich words and tears of joy. I don’t know of any kid that walks around crying because their dad loves them. The love our fathers have for us, and I would even say the love God has for us is often an “after-thought” in our walk through the day. We went around the campfire and those attending looked at their fathers and told them what they loved and appreciated about them. Even days before we encouraged them to think about what they would tell them. Despite having time to prepare, what was shared was shared through joyfully thankful, but nervous and fearful tears – some simply sobbed as they looked at their fathers and could not utter a word. This love was thick in the air.
So why was it like this with all the loss of words, crying and emotion? I truly believe it is because when we are loved like this, AFTER THOUGHT, we all realize what true love and sacrifice really looks and feels like. And in that moment we realize we are truly unconditionally loved (despite our nakedness) and it overwhelms us to tears. I can tell you that the tears meant so very much more than any words spoken to these fathers. It is always a good thing to genuinely share what we appreciate about those who love us, protect us, sacrifice for us and provide for us. In doing so it strengthens us in the love we’ve been given and strengthens those who love us this way.
As rich as it always is when we do this, it brings me to a point of personal conviction and confession. In my testimony about God, does it bring me to joyful tears in front of those I am sharing my testimony with? Not as often as it should. As I look at Him and think about His power that He relentlessly moves to bless me, protect me and provide for me, am I at a loss of words, reduced only to thankful but fearful sobbing as I look at Him. It should be every time, but it is not. The reason for and the attitude necessary to do this is described in Ephesians 3:17-21 and is titled Spiritual Strength – 14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Prayer: Lord help us to know your love like this and to love those you have entrusted to us like this. For your glory and our good we ask it in the name of Your Son and our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Amen.
We hope to post some pictures soon of our 2016 P127 Camp Out. Thank you to all who were able to join us. Everyone made it a very special and enjoyable time. God bless you all.